Thoughts on Ben, Bean, Bird and Barnes, Thursday 28 December 2023

When Steve sent over the setlist  below,  he said, “What a wonderful gig with which to finish the year and Fleece season. Alan is a brilliant compere as well as a huge talent.”. I can’t imagine  that anyone in the crowd (and what a crowd it was) would disagree. It was being at home with jazz royalty: raconteur Alan Barnes on alto sax, clarinet, and baritone sax; Vasilis Xenopoulos on tenor sax; Jim Watson on piano; Andrew Cleyndert on bass; Clark Tracey on drums. The gig included music composed and performed by Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins (nicknamed Bean) and Charlie Parker, and two by Alan. There was time for everybody to have extended solos. I have no favourites: it was a spectacularly good evening.

Alan played the audience superbly. There was just enough  information about each tune to satisfy, with anecdotes about the three B’s, and he had us in stitches with his easy pointed humour. I got the strong impression from watching the other four performers that Alan was improvising his chat. We know him well, but his musical speed and invention still surprises us. He made a joke about using the clarinet on “Body and Soul” as a chance to practice, and then used his incredible technique to enhance his feelings for the song and for  Vasilis’ solos. 

Jim’s solo on the first number, “Bean and the Boys”, was truly exciting, and our quiet listening audience was whooping after it. If you are going to play Ben Webster tunes, the warm tenor saxophone tone produced by Vasilis seemed perfect. Andrew if anything has grown as a bassist over the years; solid pulse with constant invention. And Clark; continuous genius at work.  But the key from all four that made it so brilliant was the palpable listening. 

It has been a very good year at Fleece Jazz. Band after band came and played for us, playing wonderfully and showing us the huge range that the genre has. B, B, B, and Barnes was a stunning climax to the year.   But it would be wrong to end this note without thanks to the people who volunteer to make the club work.

So what about next year?  Well, starting off with Kevin Flanagan on sax is a very good beginning. The Martin Hallmark (piano) quartet, with Kevin, Tiago Coimbra on bass and drummer Derek Scurll is on Wednesday 10 January, It will be great to have your company for the gig.

Take care,




  1. Bean and the Boys (Coleman Hawkins) – based on ‘Lover Come Back To Me’
  2. Los Caracoles (Alan Barnes)
  3. Walking the Frog (Ben Webster) BW was jokingly referred to as ‘The Frog’ by fellow musicians owing to his facial appearance and not, as Alan Barnes suggested, because he could catch insects with his tongue!
  4. Body and Soul (Johnny Green/Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton) – a jazz standard and ballad notably performed by both Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins.
  5. Billie’s Bounce (Charlie Parker)

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. Spotlite (Coleman Hawkins)
  2. Did You Call Her Today? (Ben Webster) based on ‘Just You, Just Me’
  3. Chelsea Bridge (Duke Ellington) often performed by Ben Webster
  4. Mango (Alan Barnes)
  5. Frog Eyes (Clark Terry) dedicated to Ben Webster
  6. ENCORE: Yardbird Suite (Charlie Parker)

Thoughts on The Ed Jones Quartet, 13th December 2023

On Wednesday night last, the Ed Jones Quartet led by British saxophonist and composer Ed Jones returned to Fleece Jazz for the first time in five years. Initially inspired by the music of Wayne Shorter with a style reminiscent of John Coltrane, the group includes pianist Ross Stanley, bassist Riaan Vosloo and drummer Tim Giles. Together for over ten years, they have forged a unique identity of powerfully driven fire music with atmospheric improvised soundscapes that draws from original compositions and fresh interpretations of the American songbook repertoire.

The programme featured a mix of material from the For Your Ears Only album, a couple of newer, yet to be recorded pieces and four remarkable explorations of jazz standards. The opener, ‘Nomadology’, featured Jones’ Coltranesque tenor sax floating above the rolling grooves generated by Stanley, Vosloo and Giles but there’s plenty of variation along the way with subtle changes of rhythm and tempo keeping things interesting and allowing Jones to stretch out and probe to good effect. The leader’s consistently engaging solo is followed by an expansive excursion from Stanley as he matched Jones for imagination with a skilfully constructed solo.

Next up was the popular standard, ‘It Could Happen to You’, written by Jimmy Van Heusen and originally performed by Dorothy Lamour in the musical And The Angels Sing in 1944, with lyrics written by Johnny Burke. Notable jazz recordings include those by Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Bud Powell.  A haunting melody with a laid-back rhythm, Jones states the theme on tenor before handing over to Stanley and we are reminded of his formidable skills as a pianist. Both soloists are well served by the supple, fluent grooves generated by the experienced rhythm team of Vosloo and Giles throughout.

Ed then announces that we are about to hear the “East Coast debut” of new composition, ‘Passing Time and Melancholy’, an impressive and atmospheric offering from the pen of Riaan Vosloo providing a welcome contrast to the first two numbers. The tension between the structured and the free is evident throughout as themes are sketched or suggested.

The first set closes with another standard, ‘All or Nothing at All’, composed in 1939 by Arthur Altman and made famous by Frank Sinatra soon after with lyrics by Jack Lawrence. The all-too-familiar melody temporarily suggests a return to more orthodox jazz territory but there’s an intensity about the music that is sometimes reminiscent of John Coltrane or McCoy Tyner.

The second set is ushered in by another fresh composition, Riaan Vosloo’s quirkily named ‘Tune 3 (Sneaky Snakes)’.  This was a more reflective offering, a slow burner of a piece, the kind of abstract but evocative ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on an ECM recording.  We reverted to another well-loved jazz standard with ‘Star Eyes’ before reaching what was to be the final announced number.

Given a choice of three numbers, our audience picked ‘Solstice’, another impressive and atmospheric offering from the pen of Riaan Vosloo. Beginning appropriately with the deep, woody sound of the composer’s melodic double bass before being joined by the eerie shimmer of Giles’ cymbals, it is yet another long, slow-burning performance with Jones’ tenor smouldering rather than blazing in the tune’s early stages. It slowly unfolds with Jones soloing above waltz-like piano chording and the flowing drum colourations of Giles. Stanley builds up the tension before gradually releasing it again before Jones segues into a stunning, Coltrane-inspired version of the classic jazz ballad ‘Body and Soul’. As the last note fades, gasps and a “Follow that!” are heard from our great listening audience who had responded to this superb original music with enthusiasm throughout.

We will try to “follow that” in two weeks’ time on THURSDAY 28th December when we celebrate the festive season with Ben, Bean, Bird and Barnes. An outstanding quintet, led by Alan Barnes, pays homage to three of the most influential giants of Jazz – Ben Webster, Coleman “Bean” Hawkins and Charlie “Bird” Parker. Please join us for what promises to be a gig full of outstanding tunes from the golden eras of swing and bebop played with passion and musical verve.

Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.

Steve Jordan

1. Nomadology (Ed Jones)
2. It Could Happen To You (Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke)
3. Passing Time and Melancholy (Riaan Vosloo)
4. All Or Nothing At All (Arthur Altman/Jack Lawrence)
*          *          *           *         *        *        *
5. Tune 3 (Sneaky Snakes) (Riaan Vosloo)
6. Star Eyes (Gene de Paul/Don Raye )
7. Solstice (Riaan Vosloo)
8. Body and Soul (Johnny Green/Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton)